Burma has formed a National Human Rights Commission in response to an appeal by a UN envoy for the new government to investigate alleged abuses, an official said yesterday.
State media reported that the panel would be made up of 15 former ambassadors, government officials and academics.
It comes less than two weeks after the visiting UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said that “serious human rights issues remain” under the country’s new nominally civilian government.
“The commission was formed to focus on Mr Quintana’s report,” said a government official who did not want to be named, without providing further details about its mandate.
Quintana called for the release of Burma’s more than 2,000 political prisoners and voiced concern about the situation in ethnic conflict zones, including attacks against civilians, extrajudicial killings and sexual assault.
“This is a key moment in Myanmar’s [Burma] history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy,” Mr. Quintana said at the end of his five-day mission to the country.
“The new government has taken a number of steps towards this ends. Yet, many serious human rights issues remain and they need to be addressed,” he added.
Quintana urged the government to intensify its efforts to implement its own commitments and to fulfill obligations.
The Burmese regime has shown signs recently that it is seeking to improve its image by reaching out to critics such as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who met President Thein Sein for the first time last month.
Suu Kyi was released by the junta in November after seven straight years of house arrest, just days after an election that was marred by allegations of cheating and which was won by the military’s political proxies.
The new civilian administration is dominated by former generals.